Storm-related outages are a fact of life. In March 2018, a nor’easter left more than 2 million people on the East Coast without power. Hurricanes Irma and Florence put out the lights for millions in 2017 and 2018. New Hampshire residents still talk about the 2008 ice storm that left two-thirds of the state’s residents in the dark, some of them for weeks.

How can builders help? Today, builders can create resilient homes that stand up to wind, rain and snow ― and maintain occupant comfort for days without power. Called passive survivability, it focuses on building homes that remain habitable if they lose power.

Here are key features builders should consider when planning a passive survivability design:

key features builders should consider when planning a passive survivability design:

  1. A superefficient envelope with good insulation and air sealing
  2. Energy-efficient windows and patio doors that take advantage of passive solar gain and natural ventilation
  3. Exterior doors that close properly and have good weather strips
  4. Solar panels and home batteries that further improve a home’s resilience during an outage

Five must-haves for passive survivability design

The building envelope in a passive survivability design needs the following elements:

  • Code-mandated structural features
    Include tie-downs to resist uplift and shear panels to keep the frame from racking in high wind zones.
  • Meticulous waterproofing
    You want this to include the window manufacturer’s recommended flashing.
  • Impact-resistant windows and patio doors
    In areas subject to wind-borne debris, you want to reduce the chance of a breach that would let wind and water through. JELD-WEN offers windows and patio doors with ImpactGard protection that meets the toughest U.S. building codes.
  • Window clips or bolts
    Air pressure cycling during a hurricane can pull windows from their openings so make sure to use the clips or bolts required by the manufacturer.
  • Good insulation, careful air sealing and high R-value glass
    These elements are especially important after the storm passes to help keep the home livable.

Design choices can also protect reputations

Even if the power never goes out, sustainability practices improve a builder’s reputation. For example, a home with a waterproof envelope is less prone to mold and mildew. Products like JELD-WEN’s new FiniShield™ solution can help too. It’s a paint-replacement, laminated-color solution for vinyl windows and patio doors that offers improved energy control and durability and a more consistent appearance. Insulation, air sealing and high-performance windows and patio doors are important too, helping reduce monthly utility bills.

Some builders are already implementing passive survivability features in all their homes. Thrive Home Builders in Denver will complete more than 200 homes this year that qualify for DOE Zero Energy Ready Home certification. “We’ve decided to make Zero Energy a part of the brand,” says Thrive CEO Gene Myers.

All of Thrive’s homes include solar panels and battery backup. “If there’s an outage you will still have power. One battery can carry basic lighting, a refrigerator/freezer, and the furnace or heat pumps,” says Myers. While some builders offer these as options, Thrive has made them standard equipment.

For design and planning resources for windows and doors that contribute to resilient buildings, visit JELD-WEN’s professional portal.

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